On July 24, 2014 Google released a pretty big local search algorithm update. The update was dubbed Pigeon by Barry Schwartz and the team at Search Engine Land. There are a few things that you should know about the Pigeon update, and a few things you need to understand about how Google operates.
How Google Works
The first step to understanding Google algorithm updates is to understand how Google works. I always fall back in this very basic video put out by Matt Cutts. Matt is basically the official Google mouthpiece that speaks directly to the SEOs of the world. This video is a little old but does a great job of explaining how Google works.
Page Rank and Site Quality
In the video above (at about the 1:30 mark) Matt talks about PageRank and a sites quality. What you need to know is that Google basis that quality off of an algorithm. About 500 to 600 times a year Google makes changes to their algorithms. Some of those changes are major, and others barely register at all. For us in the Midwest it’s like our weather patterns. Some storms have huge destructive tornadoes that make you rebuild everything but most storms are minor rain clouds and some thunder.
Occasionally Google changes their entire algorithm. They did this most recently with the change to the change to the Hummingbird algorithm. Again, if we look at this like weather Hummingbird was a complete climate change. Like taking a desert and making it permanently a rain forest.
Google Pigeon Update
As the Google algorithm sorts out websites promoting some and demoting others we need to understand that the algorithm works differently across the web. The Pigeon update impacted searches that contain queries for local products, goods, and services. That part of the algorithm is broken up even more into industries and other categories. For example the Pigeon update had an impact on both local attorneys, and local taco stands but depending on the industry and competition in that industry the impact could be very different.
Google Pigeon Update, What You Should Know
I’ll start that with a very broad caveat that results may vary depending on your industry and geographic location. If you want to dig deeper there is an awesome round table discussion on Search Engine Land and a great in depth study on Search Engine Watch .
- Strongest Brands Are Winning – Initially this might sound great. However, do you know what really strong brand has a lot of great local content? If you guessed Yelp, you’re right. Google Pigeon has given Yelp a big boost.
- What This Means – Small businesses in competitive markets may want to embrace Yelp (if you haven’t already). This does not mean you need to pay for Yelp, but you should claim your listing and encourage that customers leave reviews on Yelp.
- The Local Search Radius is Smaller – This is a big one for my friends in rural Minnesota. The next front in local search is the neighborhood. In large cities Google is really struggling to provide results that are relevant to the searchers neighborhood. For example if I live in NE Minneapolis a business in SW Minneapolis is not very relevant, but it is also not very far away.
- What This Means – The further you get from the your physical location, the harder local SEO will be. For rural businesses that cover multiple communities in a 50 – 60 mile radius this is bad news. You can still be found in your service area but it may be harder than it has been in years passed.
- SEO Still Matters – Are you shocked I went with this one? In the past local SEO was really all about citations. It was pretty easy to clean up all of your local listings and be found in your service area. Now with the search radius shrinking and big brands dominating search results other SEO tactics are more relevant than ever in local SEO.
- What This Means – Local link building, great content, and a site structure designed for local SEO have become more important than ever.